In advance of tomorrow’s public hearing, Maine’s leading reproductive health and rights groups voiced their support for a bill that would ensure coverage of abortion care under public and private insurance if the plan covers prenatal care
LD 820, An Act To Prevent Discrimination in Public and Private Insurance Coverage for Pregnant Women in Maine, is sponsored by Rep. Jay McCreight of Harpswell and cosponsored by more than 80 legislators in the Senate and the House. The bill was carefully drafted to include exemptions for religious employers consistent with current Maine law and language to allow for exemptions to protect federal funds.
Despite polarizing rhetoric, voters are generally in agreement about abortion care. When asked what the experience should be like for a woman who has decided to have an abortion, two-thirds of voters say it should be covered by her insurance. More than 8 in 10 say that care should be affordable and without added burdens.
Since 1976 the Hyde Amendment has denied federal Medicaid coverage of abortion except in extreme circumstances of rape, incest, and life endangerment, meaning eligible people have been prevented from using their healthcare coverage for abortion care. The motives of this restriction were clear: to make it as difficult as possible for poor women, especially women of color, to make their own decisions about their pregnancies.
States, however, can ensure coverage of abortion for people with Medicaid, which 15 already do. Another eight provide expanded coverage. Maine has thus far denied coverage for abortion under Medicaid and, under the LePage administration, went further by denying access to birth control and other preventive health services if that care was provided on the same day as an abortion.
There are no similar limits on private insurance covering abortion care. But while a number of insurance providers cover abortion in Maine, many plans do not -- even in the extreme circumstances of sexual assault and life endangerment.
Coverage restrictions have direct financial implications for patients, particularly those with lower incomes.
The majority of voters understand that denying access to the full range of reproductive health care services, including abortion, jeopardizes a patient’s economic well-being. Three in four (76%) voters believe that women having insurance coverage for the full range of reproductive healthcare, including birth control, pregnancy tests, prenatal care, and abortion is important to ensuring that they have equal economic opportunities.
LD 820 ensures that the ability to afford abortion care does not influence a patient’s private medical decisions about their pregnancy.
The public hearing on LD 820 will begin at 1 p.m. on Wednesday March 27 in room 220 of the Cross Office building.
Mindy Woerter of Durham
There is nothing more deafeningly silent than the ultrasound room when the technician knows something is seriously wrong. At what we thought was a routine ultrasound, the doctor explained that our baby had a rare and lethal anomaly incompatible with life. I would never make it to term and continuing the pregnancy could put my health at risk. The choice was both excruciatingly hard and heartbreakingly easy: I ended my pregnancy at 13 weeks. A month later while still grieving our loss, our insurance company informed us our abortion would not be covered and sent a bill for $6,000. Thanks to my privilege, I was able to access the care I needed. All women, no matter their source of insurance, should have abortion covered as any other medical procedure would be.
Dana Peirce learned her son had a lethal condition in her 32nd week of pregnancy and had to go to Colorado for the $25,000 procedure to end her pregnancy
I can’t change what went wrong with my son. But I hope to change how we treat women, who for whatever reason, need an abortion. Mine was a very sad situation that was made much worse by current laws. By sharing my experience and helping to pass this bill, I’m trying to make it better for somebody else.
Nicole Clegg, Vice President of Public Policy, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England
Abortion has been safe and legal in the United States for more than 40 years. That’s not the question. The question is whether abortion should be accessible for everyone no matter your income or health insurance. While we all have our own personal feelings and beliefs about abortion, most of us also believe it’s not our place to make that decision for someone else. Without LD 820, insurance companies can continue influencing your decision by denying care---preventing you from using your healthcare coverage for personal medical decisions---and that’s not right.